NASA space shuttle: Coming to a city near you?

For three years, 29 institutions competed for a (very large) piece of NASA history. On Tuesday, Charles Bolden, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, named the four cities that will house the space shuttles Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavour, and Enterprise.

To make it to their new homes, the vehicles will hitch rides on the backs of 747 jumbo jets. Each institution will pay $29 million to cover the space shuttle preparation and transportation costs. Here are the cities that won.

Discovery – Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (Chantilly, Va.)

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    Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to the International Space Station on Feb. 24. The shuttle then landed back on Earth after its final space flight before retirement.
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Space aficionados across the United States were certain the National Air and Space Museum would get a shuttle, given the institution's close relationship with NASA. Smithsonian employees weren’t so sure.

“The press had seemed confident, but we weren’t certain,” says an exuberant Valerie Neal, a space-history curator at the museum. She learned Discovery was headed to the Smithsonian when she heard cheers from colleagues and museum visitors who were watching NASA's announcement.

The Smithsonian is currently home to Enterprise, an experimental shuttle that never flew in space but did complete glide tests. Discovery will sit in the same spot Enterprise now occupies. The 30-year history of Discovery, Dr. Neal says, provides an opportunity for beefing up the exhibit.

“An arrival like this happens very rarely in the life of a museum or in the life of a community," she says.

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